My desire to do Rize justice by writing something even remotely smart or insightful about it is counterbalanced by my creeping exhaustion, the result of snapping awake shortly after 4 this morning and generally failing pathetically to fall back asleep. My eyes are burning and my fingers keep hitting the wrong keys and my brain pretty much shut off about an hour ago, but something has to be said about this film.
What saves Rize from being overwhelmingly feel-good treacle on the one hand or utter darkness on the other is both the believable humanity of its subjects and the excellent crafting of the film. The kids and young adults at the movie's core are determined to escape the bleak crappiness of what could be their fates as blacks in LA's less desirable neighborhoods not by means of drugs or gangs or violence but through an intensely physical form of dance.
It's amazing and uplifting to see them move; I often found myself watching with my mouth agape. They define themselves both by what they are--clowns/krumpers--and by what they're not--gangbangers, addicts, the parents who far too often let them down. For much of the film, it's possible to believe that something in the world is opening up to these dancers.
But Dave LaChappelle, the filmmaker, takes extreme care to temper that belief somewhat with proof that even the most transportive physical experience can't lift you entirely out of the mud. There's enough disappointment and senseless loss and heartache to bring you back from your music- and movement-fuelled high and remind you where the film is taking place.
Still, though, there is a sense of something unquashably hopeful here, as well as a familiar sense of awe at what amazing and creative and utterly new things can come from the worst of human experience. Just try to sit through the long, gorgeous, sunny final scene and reach the credits with dry eyes.